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Anthroposophy and the Visual Arts

A Lecture By
Rudolf Steiner
The Hague, April 9, 1922
GA 82

This lecture was given at The Hague in April of 1922, and is included in Volume 82 of the Bibliographic Survey, 1961. It is lecture 3 of 6 from the lecture series: The Significance of Anthroposophy in Contemporary Spiritual Life, published in German as: Damit der Mensch Ganz Mensch Werden. Die Bedeutung der Anthroposophie im Geistesleben der Gegenwart. It has been translated from notes unrevised by the lecturer, by V. C. Bennie.

This lecture has been authorized for the Western hemisphere by, and published here by kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1961
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Anthroposophy and the Visual Arts

R u d o l f   S t e i n e r

A Lecture, hitherto untranslated, given at The Hague on April 9, 1922
(following the preceding lecture in this issue).

From a shorthand report unrevised by the lecturer. Published by permission of the Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

W

HAT I have to say to-day will be, in a sense, an interlude within this course of lectures, for I shall try, from the scientific point of view, to glance at the field of artistic creation. I hope, however, that to-day's considerations will show that this interlude is really a contribution which will help to elucidate what I said on the preceding days and what I shall have to say in the days that follow.

When the Anthroposophical Movement had been active for some time, a number of members became convinced that a building should be erected for it. Various circumstances (which I need not mention here) led finally to the choice of the hill at Dornach, in the Jura Hills near Basle, Switzerland. Here the Goetheanum, the Free High School for Anthroposophical Spiritual Science, is being built. [The first Goetheanum, burnt down on New Year's night, 1922/23. The second Goetheanum, modelled by Rudolf Steiner not long before his death in 1925, was opened in 1928.] It is not yet completed, but lectures can already be held in it and work can be done.

I should now like to speak of the considerations (inneren Verhältnissen) that prevailed with us when designing this building. If any other spiritual movement of our time had decided to erect its own building, what would have been done? Well, one would have applied to one or more architects, and a building would have been erected in one or other of the traditional styles — Antique, Renaissance or Gothic. Then, in accordance with what is being done here or there in the various branches of art, craftsmen would have been called in to decorate the building with paintings and plastic forms.

Nothing like that could be done in the case of the Dornach building — the Free High School for Spiritual Science; it would have contradicted the whole intention and innermost character of the anthroposophical conception of the world. This conception is not an attempt to achieve something one-sidedly theoretical — an expression of cosmic laws in a sum of ideas. It intends to be something born from man as a whole and to serve his whole being. It would be, on the one hand, something that can very well be expressed in thought forms — as one expects of any view of the world that is propounded. On the other hand, the anthroposophical world-view would be essentially more comprehensive; it strives to be able to speak from the whole compass of man's being. It must therefore be able to speak, not only from the theoretical, scientific spirit, but from an artistic spirit also. It would speak from a religious, a social, an ethical spirit; and to do all this in accordance with the needs of practical life in these fields.

I have often expressed the task confronting us in Dornach with the help of a trivial comparison. If we think of a nut with its kernel inside and the shell around, we cannot think that the grooves and twists of the shell result from other laws than those that shape the kernel. The shell, in clothing the nut, is shaped by the same laws that shape the kernel. When the building at Dornach, this double cupola, was erected, our aim was to create an architectural, plastic, pictorial shell for what would be done within it as an expression of the anthroposophical view of the world. And just as one can speak in the language of thought from the rostrum in Dornach about what is perceived in super-sensible worlds, so must one be in a position to let the architectural, plastic, pictorial frame for the anthroposophical world-view proceed from the same spirit.

But a great danger confronts us here: the danger of having ideas about this or that and then simply giving them external expression in symbolic or insipidly allegorical form. (This is frequently done when world-views are given external representation: symbols or allegories are set up — thoroughly inartistic products which flout the really artistic sense.) It must be clearly understood, above all, that the anthroposophical conception of the world rejects such symbolic or allegorical negations of art (Widerkunst, Unkunst). As a view of the world, it should spring from an inner spiritual life so rich that it can express itself, not allegorically or symbolically, but in genuinely artistic creations.

In Dornach there is not a single symbol, not a single allegory to be seen. Everything that has been given artistic expression was born from artistic perception, came to birth in the moulding of forms, in creating out of the interplay of colours (aus dem Farbig-Malerischen heraus); it had its origin in a thoroughly artistic act of perception and had nothing to do with what is usually expressed when people come and ask: What does this mean? What does that signify? In Dornach no single form is intended to mean anything — in this sense. Every form is intended to be something — in the genuinely artistic sense; it means itself, expresses itself.

Those people who come to Dornach to-day and maintain that something symbolic or allegorical is to be seen there, are just projecting into our building their own prejudgements; they are not expressing what has come to birth with this building. Our aim is that the same spirit — not the theoretical spirit but the living spirit that speaks from the rostrum or confronts us from the stage — should speak also through the artistically plastic forms, through the architecture, through the paintings. The spirit at work in the “kernel” the spirit that finds expression through the spoken word — is to shape the “shell” also.

Now, if the anthroposophical view of the world is something new entering human evolution in the way I have ventured to describe in the two previous lectures, then, naturally, what had been in the world before could not find expression in our architectural style, our plastic and pictorial forms — i.e. in the visual art of our building. No artistic reminiscences, Antique, Renaissance or Gothic, could be brought in. The anthroposophical world-view had to show itself sufficiently productive to evolve its own style of visual art.

Of course, if such intentions press on one's heart and soul, one becomes very humble and one's own most severe critic. I certainly know that, if I had to build the Dornach building a second time, much that now appears to me imperfect, often indeed wrong, would be different. But this is not the essential thing. The essential thing, at least for to-day's lecture, is the intention (das Wollen) that I have just described. It is of this that I wish to speak.

*

When we speak of visual art, in so far as we have to consider it here — that is, the plastic art to which the anthroposophical world-view had been directed, as by inner necessity, through the fact that friends came forward and made the sacrifice required in order that the building at Dornach could be started — when we speak of visual art in this sense, we need, before all else, to understand thoroughly the human form. For, after all, everything in visual art points to, and proceeds from, the human form. We must understand the human form in a way that really enables us to create it.

I spoke yesterday of one element, the spatial element, in so far as this is an element in our world and, at the same time, proceeds from our human being. I said that the three spatial dimensions, by which we determine all the forms underlying our world, can be derived from the human form. But when one speaks as I spoke yesterday, one does not arrive at the apprehension of space needed for sensitive, artistic creation if one intends to pursue plastic art — that plastic art which underlies all visual art — with full consciousness. Precisely when one has space in its three dimensions so concretely before one's mind's eye as in yesterday's considerations, one sees that the space arrived at in this way cannot be the space in which one finds oneself when, for example, one forms — also in “space”, as we say — the human form plastically. One cannot obtain the space in which one finds oneself as a sculptor. One must say to oneself: That is quite a different space.

I touch here on a secret pertaining to our human way of looking at the world — a secret that our present-day perception has, one might almost say, quite lost. You will permit me to set out from a way of looking at things that is apparently — but only apparently — quite abstract, theoretical. But this excursion will be brief; it is intended only as an introduction to what will be able to come before our minds' eyes in a much more concrete form.

When we intend to apply to objects in this world the space of which I spoke yesterday — we apply it, of course, geometrically, using, in the first place, Euclidean geometry — we set out, as you all know, from a point and set up three axes at right angles to one another. (As I pointed out yesterday, one ought to take this point in concrete space to be within the human body.) Any region of space is then related to these axes by determining distances from them (or from the three planes that they determine). In this way we obtain a geometrical determination of any object occupying space; or, as in kinematics, one can express motion in space.

But there is another space than this: the space into which the sculptor enters. The secret of this space is that one cannot set out from one point and relate all else to it. One must set out from the counterpart of this point. And what is its counterpart? Nothing other than an infinitely remote sphere to which one might look up as at, let us say, the blue vault of heaven.

Imagine that I have, instead of a point, a hollow sphere in which I find myself, and that I relate all that is within it to this hollow sphere, determining everything in relation to it, instead of to a point by means of co-ordinates. So long as I describe it to you only in this way, you could rightly say: Yes, but this determination in relation to a hollow sphere is vague; I can form no mental picture when I try to think it. Well, you would be right; one can form no mental picture. But man is capable of relating himself to the cosmos — as we, yesterday, related ourselves to the human being (the “anthropos”). As we looked into the human being and found the three dimensions — as we can determine him in relation to these three dimensions, saying: his body extends linearly in one of the dimensions; in the second is the plane of the extended arms and all that is symmetrically built into the human organism; and in the third dimension is all that extends forwards and backwards, backwards and forwards — so, when we really look at the “anthropos” as an organism, we do not find something extended in an arbitrary way in three dimensions. We have before us the human organism built in a definite way.

*

We can also relate ourselves to the cosmos in the same way. What occurs in the soul when we do so? Well: imagine yourself standing in a field on a clear, starry night, with a free view of the sky. You see regions of the vaulted sky where the stars are closely clustered, almost forming clouds. You see other regions where the stars are more widely spaced and form constellations (as they are called). And so on. If you confront the starry heavens in this merely intellectual way — with your human understanding — you achieve nothing. But if you confront the starry heavens with your whole being, you experience (empfinden) them differently.

We have now lost the perceptive sense for this, but it can be reacquired. Facing a patch of sky where the stars are close together and form almost a cloud, will be a different experience from facing constellations. One experiences a patch of sky differently when the moon is there and shines. One experiences a night differently when the moon is new and not visible. And so on. And precisely as one can “feel” one's way into the human organism in order to have the three dimensions — where space itself is concrete, something connected with man — so one can acquire a perception of the cosmos, that is, of one's cosmic environment (Umkreis). One looks into oneself to find, for example, the three dimensions. But one needs more than that. One can now look out into the wide expanses and focus one's attention on their configurations. Then, as one advances beyond ordinary perception, which suffices for geometry, one acquires the perception needed for these wide expanses; one advances to what I called, yesterday and the day before, “imaginative cognition”. I have still to speak about its cultivation.

If one were simply to record what one sees out there in cosmic expanses, one would achieve nothing. A mere chart of the starry heavens, such as astronomers make to-day, leads nowhere. If, however, one confronts this cosmos as a whole human being, with full understanding of the cosmos, then, in face of these clusters of stars, pictures form themselves within the soul — pictures like those one sees on old maps, drawn when “imaginations” took shape out of the old, instinctive clairvoyance. One receives an “imagination” of the whole cosmos. One receives the counter-image of what I showed you yesterday as the basis, in man, of the three geometrical space-dimensions. What one receives can take an infinite variety of shapes.

Men have, indeed, no idea to-day of the way in which men once, in ancient times, when an instinctive clairvoyance still persisted among them, gazed out into the cosmos. People believe to-day that the various drawings, pictures — “imaginations” — which were made of the zodiacal signs, were the products of phantasy. They are not that. They were sensed (empfunden); they were perceived (geschaut) on confronting the cosmos. Human progress required the damping-down of this instinctive, living, imaginative perception, in order that intellectual perception, which sets men free, should come in its place. And from this, again, there must be achieved — if we wish to be whole human beings — a perception of the universe that attains once more to “Imagination”.

If one intends to take, in this way, one's idea of space from the starry heavens, one cannot express it exhaustively by three dimensions. One receives a space which I can only indicate figuratively. If I had to indicate the space I spoke of yesterday by three lines at right angles to one another, I should indicate this space by drawing everywhere sets of figures (Konfigurationen), as if surface forces (Kräfte in Flächen) from all directions of the universe were approaching the earth and, from without, were working plastically on the forms upon its surface.

One comes to such an idea when, advancing beyond what living beings — above all, human beings — present to physical eyes, one attains to what I have been calling “Imagination”. In this the cosmos, not the physical human being, reveals itself in images and brings us a new space. As soon as one gets so far, one perceives man's second body — what an older, prescient, instinctive clairvoyance called the “etheric body”. (A better name is “body of formative forces” (Bildekräfteleib).) This is a super-sensible body, consisting of subtle, etheric substantiality and permeating man's physical body. We can study this physical body if, within the space it occupies, we seek the forces that flow through it. But we cannot study the etheric body (body of formative forces) which flows through the human being if we set out from this space. We can study this only if we think of it as built up out of the whole cosmos: formed plastically from without by “planes of force” (Kraftflächen) converging on the earth from all sides and reaching man.

*

In this way, and in no other, did plastic art arise in times when it was still an expression of what is elemental and primary. Such a work as, for example, the Venus of Milo reveals this to an intuitive eye. It was not created after a study of anatomy, in respectful reliance on forces which are merely to be understood as proceeding from the space within the physical body. It was created with a knowledge, possessed in ancient times, of the body of formative forces which permeates the physical body and is formed from out of the cosmos — formed from out of a space as peripheral as earthly space (physical space) is central. A being that is formed from the periphery of the universe has beauty impressed upon it — “beauty” in the original meaning of the word. Beauty is indeed the imprint of the cosmos, made with the help of the etheric body, on a physical, earthly being.

If we study a physical, earthly being in accordance with the bare, dry facts, we find, of course, what it is for ordinary, physical space. But if we let its beauty work on us — if we intend to intensify its beauty by means of plastic art, we must become aware that the beauty impressed upon this being derives from the cosmos. The beauty of this individual being reveals to us how the whole cosmos works within it. In addition, one must, of course, feel how the cosmos finds expression in the human form, for example.

If we are able to study the human form with inward, imaginative perception, we are induced to focus our attention, at first, on the formation of the head apart from the rest. But, looking at this formation as a whole, we do not understand it if we try to explain it merely by what is within the head. We understand it only if we conceive it as wrought from out of the cosmos through the mediation of the body of formative forces.

If we now pass on to consider man's chest formation, we reach an inward understanding of this — an understanding in respect to the human form — only if we can picture to ourselves how man lives on the earth, round which the stars of the zodiacal line revolve. (Only apparently revolve, according to present-day astronomy, but that does not concern us here.) Whereas we relate man's head to the pole of the cosmos, we relate his chest formation — which certainly functions (verläuft) in the recurrent equatorial line — to what runs its course, in the most varied ways, in the annual or diurnal circuit of the sun.

It is not until we pass on to consider the limb-system of man, especially the lower limb-system, that we feel: This is not related to the external cosmos, but to earth; it is connected with the earth's force of gravity. Look with the eye of a sculptor at the formation of the human foot; it is adapted to the earth's gravitational force. We take in the whole configuration — how the thigh bones and shin bones are fitted together by the mediation of the knee — and find it all adapted, dynamically and statically, to the earth, and to the way in which the force of gravity works from the earth's centre outwards, into the universe.

We feel this when we study the human form with a sculptor's eye. For the head we need all the forces of the cosmos; we need the whole sphere if we want to understand what is expressed so wonderfully in the formation of the head. If we want to understand what finds expression in the formation of the chest, we need what, in a sense, flows round the earth in the equatorial plane; we are led to earth's environment. If we want to understand man's lower limb-system, to which his metabolic system is linked, we must turn to the earth's forces. Man is, in this respect, bound to the forces of the earth. Briefly: we discover a connection between all cosmic space — conceived as living — and the human form.

To-day, in many circles (including artistic circles), people will probably laugh at such observations as those I have just made. I can well understand why. But one knows little about the real history of human development if one laughs at such things. For anyone who can enter deeply into the ancient art of sculpture sees from the sculptured forms created then that feelings (Empfindungen), developed by the “imaginative” view of the starry heavens, have flowed into those forms. In the oldest works of sculpture it is the cosmos that has been made perceptible in the human form.

*

Of course, we must regard as knowledge, not only what is called such in an intellectual sense, but knowledge that is dependent upon the whole range of human soul-forces. One becomes a sculptor — really a sculptor — from an elemental urge, not just because one has learnt to lean on old styles and reproduce what is no longer known to-day, but was known in this or that period, when this or that style was alive and sculptors were yet creative. One does not become a sculptor by leaning on traditions — as is usual to-day, even with fully fledged artists; one becomes a sculptor by reaching back, with full consciousness, to the shaping forces which once led men to plastic art. One must re-acquire cosmic feelings; one must be again able to feel the universe and see in man a microcosm — a world in miniature. One must be able to see the impress of the cosmos stamped upon the human forehead. One must be able to see from the nose how it has received the imprint of what has also been stamped upon the whole respiratory system: the imprint of the environment — of what revolves round the earth in the equatorial and zodiacal lines. Then one senses what one must create (darstellen). One does not work by mere imitation, copying a model, but one recreates by immersing oneself in that force by which Nature herself created and shaped man. One forms as Nature herself forms. But then one's whole mode of feeling, in cognition and artistic expression, must be able to adapt itself to this.

When we have the human form before us, we direct our artistic eye at first to the head. We do this with the urge to give plastic form to the head. We then try to bring out all the details of this head, treating every surface with loving care: the forehead, the arches above the eyes, the ears and so on. We try to trace, with all possible care, the lines that run down the forehead and over the nose. We proceed, in accordance with our aim, to give this or that shape to the nose. In short, we try to bring out, with loving care, through the different surfaces, what pertains to the human head.

Perhaps what I am now about to say may sound heretical to many, but I believe it flows from fundamentally artistic feelings. If, as sculptors, we were striving to form human, human legs, we should feel persistent inhibition. One would like to shape the head as lovingly as possible, but not the legs. One would like to hide them — to by-pass them with the help of pieces of clothing, with something or other that conforms sculpturally to what finds expression in the head. A human form with correctly chiselled legs — calves, for example — offends the sculptor's artistic eye. I know that I am saying something heretical, but I also know that it is thereby the more fundamentally artistic. Correctly chiselled legs! — one does not want them. Why not? Well, simply because there is another anatomy for the sculptor; his knowledge of the human form is different from the anatomist's. For the sculptor — strange as it may sound — there are no bones and muscles. For him there is the human form, built out of the cosmos with the help of the body of formative forces. And in the human form there are for him forces, effects of forces, lines of force and force-configurations. As a sculptor I cannot possibly think of the cranium when I form the human head; I form the head from without inwards, as the cosmos has moulded it. And I form the corresponding bulges on the head in accordance with the forces that press upon the form from within outwards and oppose the forces working in from the cosmos.

When, as a sculptor, I form the arms, I do not think of the bones but of the forces that are active when, for example, I bend my arm. I have then lines of force, developing forces, not what takes shape as muscle or bone. And the thickness of the arm depends on what is present there as life-activity, not on the muscular tissue. Because, however, one has above all the urge to make the human form with its beauty conform to the cosmos, but can do so only with the head — the lower limbs being adapted to the earth — one leaves the lower limbs out. When one renders a human being in art, one would like to lift him from the earth. One would make a heavy earth-being of him, if one were to give too definite shape to his lower limbs.

Again, looking at the head alone, we see that only the upper part, the wonderfully vaulted skull, is a copy of the whole cosmos. (The skull is differently arched in every individual. There is no general, only an individual, “phrenology”.) The eyes and the nose resemble, in their formation, man's chest organism; they are formed as copies of his environment, of the equatorial stream. Hence, when I come to do the eyes of a sculptured figure of a human being, I must confine myself — since one cannot, as you know, represent a man's gaze, whether deep or superficial, by any shade of colour — to representing large or small, slit or oval, or more or less, less straight eyes. But how one represents the way the eye passes over into the form of the nose, or how the forehead does this — how one suggests that man sees by bringing his whole soul into his seeing — all that is different when the eyes are slit, oval or straight. And if one can only feel how a man breathes through his nose, this wonderful means of expression, one can say: As a man is in respect to his chest, as its form is shaped by the cosmos, working inwards, so does he, as a human being, press what breathes in his chest, and what beats in his heart, up into his eyes and nose. It comes to expression there in the plastic form.

How a man is in respect to his head only finds proper expression in the cranium, which is, in respect to its form, an imprint of the cosmos. How a man reacts to the cosmos, not only by taking in oxygen and remaining passive, but by having his own share of physical matter and, in his chest, exposing his own being to the cosmos — that finds sculptured expression in the formation of the eyes and his nose.

And when we shape the mouth? Oh, in shaping the mouth we really give shape to the whole inner man in his opposition to the cosmos. We express the manner in which the man reacts to the world out of his metabolic system. In forming the mouth and shaping the chin — in forming all that belongs to the mouth-formation — we are giving form to the “man of limbs and metabolism”, but we spiritualise him and present him as an outwardly active form. Thus one who has a human head before his sculptor's eye has the whole man before him — man as an expression of his “system”: the “nerve-sense-system” in the cranium with its remarkable bulges; the “eye-nose-formation” which, if I were to speak platonically, I should have to call an expression of the man as a man of courage — as a man who sets his inner self, in so far as it is courageous, in opposition to the external cosmos; and the mouth as an expression of what he is in his inner being. (Of course, the mouth, as a part of the head-formation, is also shaped from without, but what a man is in his inner being works from within against the configuration from without.)

*

Only some sketchy hints that require to be thought out could be given here. But you will have seen from these brief indications that the sculptor requires more than a knowledge of man gained from imitating a human model; he must actually be able to experience inwardly the forces that work through the cosmos when they build the human form. The sculptor must be able to grasp what takes place when a human being is plastically formed from the fertilised ovum in the mother's body — not merely by forces in the mother's body, but by cosmic forces working through the mother. He must be able to create in such a way that, at the same time, he can understand what the individual human being reveals of himself, more and more, as the sculptor approaches the lower limbs. He must, above all, be able to understand how man's wonderful outer covering — the form of his skin — results from two sets of forces: the peripheral forces working inwards, from all directions, out of the cosmos, and the centrifugal forces working outwards and opposing the former. Man in his external form must be, for the sculptor, a result of cosmic forces and inner forces. One must have such a feeling towards all details.

In art one needs a feeling for one's material and should know for what this or that material is suited; otherwise, one is not working sculpturally but only illustrating an idea, working novellistically. If one is forming the human figure in wood, let us say, one will know when at work on the head that one must feel the form pressing from without inwards. That is the secret of creating the human form. When I form the forehead, I am constrained to feel that I am pressing it in from without, while forces from within oppose me. I must only press, more lightly or more strongly, as required in order to restrain the forces working from within. I must press, lightly or strongly, as the cosmic forces (which indicate how the head must be formed) permit.

But when I come to the rest of the human body, I can make no progress if I form and build from without inwards. I cannot but feel that I am inside. Already when I come to form the chest, I must place myself inside the man and work plastically from within outwards. This is very interesting.

When one is at work on the head, one comes through the inner necessity of artistic creation to work from without inwards — to think of oneself on the extreme periphery and working inwards; when one forms the chest, one must place oneself inside and bring the form out. Lower down one feels: here I must only give indications; here we pass over into the indefinite.

Artistic creation of our time is very often inclined to regard the sort of things I have been saying here as an inartistic spinning of fancies. But it is only a matter of being able to experience artistically in one's soul what I have just hinted at: of being able actually to stand, as an artist, within the whole creative cosmos. Then one is led, from all sides, to avoid imitating the human physical form when one approaches plastic art. For the human physical form is itself only an imitation of the “body of formative forces”. Then one will feel the necessity felt, above all, by the Greeks. They would never have produced the forms of their noses and foreheads by mere imitation; an instinct for such things as I have just described was fundamental with them. One will be able to return to a really fundamental artistic feeling only if, in this way, one can place oneself with all the inner feeling of one's soul — with one's inner “total cognition” (if I may use this expression) — within nature's creative forces. Then one does not set to work on the external, physical body, which is itself only an imitation of the etheric body, but on the etheric body itself. One forms this etheric body and then only fills it out (in a sense) with matter.

What I have just described is, at the same time, a way out of the theoretical view of the world and into a living perception of what can no longer be viewed theoretically. One cannot construct the sculptor's space by analytical geometry, as one constructs Euclidean space. One can, however, perceive (erschauen), by “imagination”, this space — pregnant with forms, everywhere able to produce shapes out of itself, and from such perception (Schauen) one can create forms in plastic art, architectural or sculptural.

*

At this point I should like to make a remark which seems important to me, so that something which could easily be misunderstood will be less misunderstood. If someone has a magnetic needle, and one end points to the north, the other to the (magnetic) south, it will not occur to him — if he does not want to talk as a dilettante — to explain the direction of the needle by inner forces of the needle: that is, by considering only what is comprised within the steel. That would be nonsense. He includes the whole earth in his explanation of the needle's direction. He goes outside the magnetic needle. Embryology makes to-day the dilettantish mistake; it looks at the human ovum only as it develops in the mother's body. All the forces that form the human embryo are supposed to be therein. In reality, the whole cosmos works through the mother's body upon the configuration of the embryo. The plastic forces of the whole cosmos are there, as are the forces of the earth in directing the magnetic needle. Just as I must go beyond the needle when studying its behaviour, so, when considering the embryo, I must look beyond the maternal body and take account of the whole cosmos. And I must immerse myself in the whole cosmos if I want to apprehend what guides my hand, what guides my arm, when I strive, as a sculptor, to form the human figure.

You see: the anthroposophical world-view leads directly from merely theoretical to artistic considerations. For it is not possible to study the etheric body in a purely theoretical way. Of course one must have the scientific spirit, in the sense in which I characterised it yesterday, but one must press on to a study of the “body of formative forces” by transforming into “imaginations” what weaves in mere thoughts; that is, by grasping the external world, not only by means of thoughts or natural laws formulated in thoughts, but by “imaginations”. What we have so grasped, however, can be expressed in “imaginations” again. And if we become productive, it passes over into artistic creation.

It is strange to survey the kingdoms of nature with the consciousness that such a body of formative forces exists. The mineral kingdom has no such body; we find it first in the plant kingdom. Animals have a body of formative forces; man also. But the plant's is very different from the animal's or man's. We are confronted here by a peculiar fact: think of yourself as equipped with the sensitive powers of an artistic sculptor and expected to give plastic shape to plant forms. It is repugnant to you. (I tried it recently, at least in relief.) One cannot give a form to plants; one can only indicate their movements in some vague way. One cannot shape plants plastically. Just imagine a rose, or any other plant with a long stalk, plastically formed: impossible! Why? Because, when one thinks of the plastic shape of a plant, one thinks instinctively of its body of formative forces; and this is within the plant, as is its physical body, but directly expressed. Nature sets the plant before us as a work of plastic art. One cannot alter it. Any attempt to mould a plant would be bungling botchwork in face of what Nature herself produces in the physical and formative-force bodies of a plant. One must simply let the plant be as it is — or contemplate it with a sculptor's mind, as Goethe did in his morphology of plants.

An animal can be given plastic shape. The artistic creation of animal forms is, indeed, somewhat different from artistic creation when we are confronting a human being. One needs only to understand that if an animal is, let us say, a beast of prey, it must be apprehended as a “creature of the respiratory process.” One must see it as a breathing being and, to a certain extent, mould all the rest around the respiratory process. If one intends to give plastic shape to a camel or a cow, one must start from the digestive process and adapt the whole animal to this. In short, one must perceive inwardly, with an artistic eye, what is the main thing. If one differentiates further what I am now indicating in more general terms, one will be able to give plastic shape to the various animal forms.

Why? Well, a plant has an etheric body, created for it from out of the cosmos. It is finished. I cannot re-shape it. The plant is a plastic work of art in the world of nature. To form plants of marble or wood contradicts the whole sense of the factual world. It would be more possible in wood, for wood is nearer to the plant's nature; but it would be inartistic. But an animal sets its own nature against what is being formed from without, out of the cosmos. With an animal, the etheric body is no longer formed merely from the cosmos; it is also formed from within.

And in the case of a human being? Well, I have just said that his etheric body is formed from the cosmos only so far as the cranium is involved. I have said that the respiratory organisation, working in a refined state through eyes and nose, opposes the cosmic action, while the whole metabolic organisation, through the formation of the mouth, offers opposition also. What comes from the human being is active there and opposes the cosmos. Man's outer surface is the result of these two actions: the human and the cosmic. The etheric body is so formed that it unfolds from within. And by artistic penetration to “within”, we become able to create forms freely. We can investigate how an animal forms its etheric body for itself from its being (Wesenheit), and how a courageous or cowardly, a suffering or rejoicing human being tunes his etheric body to his soul life; and we can enter into all that and give form to such an etheric body. If we do this, and have the right sculptural understanding, we shall be able to form the human figure in many different ways.

Thus we see that, when we come to study the etheric body — the “imaginative body” — we can let ordinary scientific study be thoroughly scientific, while we, however, pass on to what becomes, of itself, art. Someone may interpose: Indeed, art is not science. But I said, the day before yesterday: If nature, the world, the cosmos are themselves artistic, confronting us with what can only be grasped artistically, we may go on asserting that it is illogical to become artistic if we would understand things, but things simply do not yield to a mode of cognition that does not pass over into art. The world can be understood only in a way which is not confined to what can be apprehended by thoughts alone, but leads to the universal apprehension of the world and finds the wholly organic, natural transition from observation to artistic perception, and to artistic creation too. Then the same spirit that speaks through the words when one gives expression, in a more theoretical way — in the form of ideas — to what one perceives (erschaut) in the world, will speak from our plastic art. Art and science then derive from the same spirit; we have in them only two sides of one and the same revelation. We can say: In science, we look at things in such a way that we express in thoughts what we have perceived; in art, we express it in artistic forms.

*

From this inner, spiritual conviction was born, for example, what has found expression in the architecture, and in the painting too, in the building at Dornach. I could say much about painting also, for it belongs, in a sense, to the plastic arts. But that would bring us to what pertains more to man's soul life and finds direct expression, not in the etheric body alone, but in the soul tingeing the etheric body. Here, too, you would see that the anthroposophical apprehension of the world leads to the fundamentally artistic level — the level of artistic “creativity” — whereas we to-day, in the religious as well as in the artistic sphere — though this is mostly unknown to artists themselves — live only on what is traditional, on old styles and motives. We believe we are productive to-day, but we are not. We must find the way back into creative nature, if our work is to be artistically spontaneous, original creation.

And this conviction has led, of itself, to Eurhythmy: the branch of art that has grown upon the soil of Anthroposophy. What the human being does in speech and song, through a definite group of organs, as a revelation of his being, can be extended to his whole being, if one really understands it. In this respect all the ancient religious documents (Urkunden) speak from old, instinctive, clairvoyant insights. And it is significant that it is said in the Bible that Jahwe breathed into man the living breath. This indicates that man is, in a certain respect, a being of respiration. I indicated yesterday that, in olden times of human evolution, the view predominated that man is a “breather”, a being of respiration. What man, as a being of respiration, becomes in “configurated breathing” — i.e. in speech and in song — can be given back to the whole man and his physical form. The movements of his vocal cords, his tongue and other organs when he speaks or sings, can be extended over his whole being — for every single organ and system of organs is, in a certain sense, an expression of his whole being. Then something like Eurhythmy can arise.

We need only remind ourselves of the inner character of Goethe's doctrine of metamorphosis, which is not yet sufficiently appreciated. Goethe sees, correctly, the whole plant in the single leaf. The whole plant is contained in the leaf in a primitive form; and the whole plant is only a more complicated leaf. In every single organ he sees a whole organic being metamorphosed in some way or other, and the whole organic being is a metamorphosis of its individual members (Glieder). The whole human being is a more complicated metamorphosis of one single organic system: the glottal system. If one understands how the whole human being is a metamorphosis of the glottal system, one is able to develop from the whole man a visible speech and visible song by movements of his limbs and by groups of performers in motion. And this development can be as genuine, and can proceed with as much inner, natural necessity as the development of song and speech from one specialised organ. One is within the creative forces of nature; one immerses oneself in the way in which our forces act in speaking or singing. When one has grasped these forces, one can transfer them to the forms of motion of the whole human being, as one transfers, in plastic art, the forces of the cosmos to the human form at rest. And as one gives expression to what lives within a man — emerging from his soul in poetry or song, or in some other art — as one expresses what can be expressed through speech, song or the art of recitation, so, too, can one express through the whole human being, in visible speech and song, what lives within him.

I should like to put it in this way: When we, as sculptors, give plastic shape to the human form, creating the microcosm out of the whole macrocosm, we create one pole; when we now immerse ourselves in the man's inner life, following its inner mobility, entering into his thinking, feeling and willing — into all that can find expression through speech and song — we can create “sculpture in motion” (bewegte Plastik). One could say: when one creates a work of plastic art, it is as if the whole wide universe were brought together in a wonderful synthesis. And what is concentrated in the deepest part of the human being, as at a point within his soul, strives, in the formed movements put out by the eurhythmist, to flow out into cosmic spaces. In the art of Eurhythmy — in “sculpture in motion” — the other pole responds from the human side. In the sculptor's plastic art we see the cosmic spaces turn towards the earth and flow together in the human form at rest. Then, concentrating on man's inner life, immersing ourselves in it spiritually, we perceive (schauen) what, to some extent, streams out from man to all points of the periphery of the universe and would meet those cosmic forces that flow in upon him from all sides and build his form; we design Eurhythmy accordingly.

I should like to add: the universe sets us a great task, but the beautiful human form is the answer. Man's inner life also sets us a great task; we explore infinite depths when, with our soul's loving gaze, we concentrate on man's inner life. This human inner life, too, strives out into all the wide expanses and, in darting, oscillating movements, would give rhythmic expression to what has been “compressed” to a point — as plastic art strives to have all the secrets of the cosmos compressed in the human form (which is, for the cosmos, a point). The human form in plastic art is the answer to the great question put to us by the universe. And when man's art of movement becomes cosmic and creates something of a cosmic nature in its own movements — as in the case of Eurhythmy — then a kind of universe is born from man, figuratively at least.

We have before us two poles of visual art: in the very ancient plastic art and in the newly created art of Eurhythmy. But one must enter into the spirit of what is artistic, as we did above, if one would really understand the right of Eurhythmy to be considered an art. One must return to the way in which plastic art once took its place in human life. One can easily picture to oneself shepherds in a field who, in the small hours of the night, turn their sleepy, but waking, eyes to the starry heavens and receive unconsciously into their souls the cosmic pictures formed by the configured “imaginations” of the stars. What was revealed to the hearts of primitive men in this way was transmitted to sons and grandsons; what had been inherited grew in their souls and became plastic abilities in the grandsons. The grandfather felt the cosmos in its beauty, the grandson formed beautiful plastic art with the forces which his soul had received from the cosmos.

Anthroposophy must look into, and not only theorise about, the secrets of the human soul. It must experience the tragic situation of the human soul, all its exultations and all that lies between. And Anthroposophy must be able to see more than what evokes the tragic mood, what is now exultant and all that lies between. As one saw the stars clearly in older “imagination”, and was able to receive into one's soul the formative forces from the stars, so one must take out of the human soul what one perceives there, and be able to communicate it through outer movements; then Eurhythmy begins.

*

What I have said to-day is only intended to be once more a cursory indication of the natural transition from Anthroposophy as a body of ideas to Anthroposophy as immediate, unallegorical, unsymbolical plastic art, creating in forms — as is our aim. Anyone who sees this clearly will discover the remarkable relation of art to science and religion. Science will appear on one level, religion on another, and art between them. It is to science, after all, that man owes all his freedom — he would never have been able to attain to complete inner freedom without science — and what man has gained as an individual — what his being, regarded impartially, has gained by his becoming scientific — will be apparent. With his thoughts he has freed himself from the cosmos; he stands alone and is thereby a human individuality. As he lives with natural laws, so does he take them into his thoughts. He becomes independent in face of nature. In religion he is drawn to devotion; he seeks to find his way back to the essential foundations of nature. He would be again a part of nature, would sacrifice his freedom on the altar of the universe, would devote himself to the Deity — would add to the breath of freedom and of individuality the breath of sacrifice. But art, especially plastic art, stands between, with all that is rooted in the realm of beauty.

Through science man becomes a free, individual being. In religious observance he offers up his own well-being, on the one hand maintaining his freedom, but already, on the other, anticipating sacrificial service. In art he finds he can maintain himself by sacrificing, in a certain sense, what the world has made of him; he shapes himself as the world has shaped him, but he creates as a free being this form from out of himself. In art, too, there is something that redeems and sets free. In art we are, on the one side, individuals; on the other, we offer ourselves in sacrifice. And we may say: In truth, art sets us free, if we take hold of it scientifically, with ideas — including those of spiritual science. But we must also say: In beauty we find again our connection with the world. Man cannot exist without living freely in himself, and without finding his connection with the world. Man finds his individuality in thought that is free. And by raising himself to the realm of beauty — the realm of art — he finds he can, again in co-operation with the world, create out of himself what the world has made of him.

Translated by V. C. Bennie.




Last Modified: 29-Apr-2017
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